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Wacky Wayside Tribe

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Does the outline for your quest story look as though it'd make a pretty thin book? Well, don't fret; you can get your coveted 300-odd pages without breaking a sweat if you just toss in a few Wacky Wayside Tribes. If the adventuring party is in a great hurry, slap them over a critical passage, or make them hostile. If it's amid a dull journey section, you don't even need to go that far.

A Wacky Wayside Tribe is never integrated into the plotline — it is, instead, an isolated flurry of eccentric action that is frequently three times as annoying as the basic story elements. It could be an angry predator, a natural disaster you'll never hear of again, or a crazy old hermit, but most often, it's a tribe.

Basically, it's a non-RPG version of sidequests.

A Wacky Wayside Tribe, if well done, can also help flesh out the world and give a sense that there are things going on that don't revolve around the main characters. If poorly done, it can imply the opposite, with the main characters repeatedly solving hundred-year-old mysteries that no one else has managed to solve.

In anime, this is often a way to provide padding when the plot Overtook the Manga. Even manga isn't immune to this if the story becomes too stretched out over time and, in order to keep releasing chapters while they take the time to choose the course of the series, they need to add a quick story-line that isn't completely relevant to the main plot. This trope can be considered a form of Plot Detour in many circumstances.

A subtrope of filler. When part of the cast is involved in something like this while everyone else is busy with important stuff, it's Trapped by Mountain Lions. If the events are not merely irrelevant but ludicrous, it's a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment. If the plot consists of nothing but encounters with Wacky Wayside Tribes, you're probably looking at a Random Events Plot. See Wandering Culture.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Pokémon: The Series indulges in this with its Filler episodes. Especially notable because 75-90% of the show is filler (depending on the season). The whole plot structure revolved around Wacky Wayside Tribes in the second generation, though the writers vary the conflicts later on.
  • Hikkatsu, a manga featuring a kung-fu expert who can (eventually) repair stuff by hitting it really hard. In his quest to find the source of the civilization-battering electric storms, he comes across many of these Tribes; small towns obsessed over concepts. One town has to open everything, from car trunks to popcorn bags to (attempted) women's shirts. Another town is obsessed with digging tunnels, a third is obsessed with zombies. And so on. Provides much plot-worthy things for the hero to hit.
  • The OVA of Tales of Eternia had them meet a Wacky Wayside Tribe, presumably set during the two minutes you spend crossing the ocean to get to the center island in the game just before heading to Celestia the first time.
  • The Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-: Almost everything you think is plot-relevant turns out to be instead this, and the original plot is abandoned later when the real plot kicks in.
  • The infamous Moon-Moon colony of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ. They are Space Amish living in a rogue colony that long ago went into its own orbit, far from any of the colony clusters. They are dedicated primarily to spreading their religion and make for a strange couple of episodes when the Argama visits their colony. Frequently cited by ZZ's detractors as being the low point of the series, making very little sense, not impacting the plot, and just being plain weird.
  • One Piece uses Wacky Wayside Islands for the needs of filler but there's also a in-universe explanation. Luffy doesn't want to find One Piece anytime soon; that would be boring. He's more interested in the journey and the Wacky people he meets and fights on the way.
  • Dragon Ball does this twice with groups of orphans. Once on Earth during Gohan's training in the Saiyan Saga, and again Recycled IN SPACE! on the journey to Namek just before the Freeza Saga. Though the latter was used to allow the heroes to know about Frieza sooner.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Shinji and Warhammer40k manages to make this work well through Chekhov's Gun and not be annoying. Javaal is where Shinji gets an army of Grey Knights. A large group of Macedonians decides to follow him and kick some ass.

    Films — Animated 
  • Those Two Birds Dinky and Boomer and Squeeks the caterpillar in The Fox and the Hound. Aside from helping to get Widow Tweed to save Tod, they contribute nothing to the main story line, and their antics, entertaining though they are, simply stop the film cold.
  • The Ice Age films are filled with these. The first film has the Crazy Survivalist dodos and the trip through the ice cave. The second features a literal Wacky Wayside Tribe of mini-sloths who make Sid their "Fire King" and the vultures singing "Food, Glorious Food." And there's Scrat and his acorn.
  • The Transformers: The Movie (the 1986 one, not the 2007 one) was positively full of these. Wheelie especially. The Quintessons also served no real purpose in the movie, though they were revealed to be the creator of the Transformers and recurring villains in the TV series. The Junkions count too, but they're forgiven because Eric Idle made Wreck-Gar work (And they were generally awesome anyway).
    • Expanding the universe in the movie DID make the premise for the following season easier to explain...
    • In addition, the third season mostly took place in space and on alien worlds, rather than on Earth the way it had in the first two, so putting things IN SPACE set up this transition.
  • The entire second act of Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure consists of these. Ann and Andy's quest to rescue Babette from Captain Contagious and his pirates is side-tracked first by an encounter with The Greedy, a giant blob of candy who constantly eats himself because he's desperately lonely without a "sweetheart". Then they get lost in "Looneyland", where they meet the prank-obsessed Sir Leonard Looney and his boss King Koo Koo, a diminutive tyrant who blows up to enormous sizes when he laughs at the misery of others.
  • Toy Story 2: Amusing though he is, this is essentially what the encounter with Zurg is for. He has nothing to do with the plot of the movie and doesn't affect it in any significant way — in fact, the toys other than Utility Belt Buzz and Rex just ignore him when he appears and focus on trying to get Jessie and Woody out of Al's bag.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Cannibal Island sequence in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. This one is particularly inexplicable, given that the movie is two-and-a-half hours long, leaving one to wonder why the producers thought it needed more padding. The scriptwriters have explained in interviews that the key point is the cannibals' belief that Captain Jack is a deity trapped in human form, which was supposed to prepare the audience for the revelation in the sequel that one of the other characters is a deity trapped in human form. (Although, since the natives were presented as superstitious savages who probably believe all kinds of wacky stuff, it's hard to notice that as foreshadowing even after the reveal is made in the third movie.) According to the commentary, this was also supposed to address the idea that Jack could escape Davy Jones and the Kraken by simply staying out of the ocean.
  • A variation occurs in the James Bond Action Prologue, which is usually a cool action scene at the start. The ones from Goldfinger, Thunderball and Octopussy have no connection to the story whatsoever (unless you count the scar in Thunderball). Some only serve for a introduction (Red Grant and SPECTRE training in From Russia with Love, Scaramanga and his "funhouse" in The Man with the Golden Gun, Henry Gupta — briefly — in Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond getting his license to kill in Casino Royale (2006)). The rest give Back Story, though sometimes you only discover after the credits.
  • Star Wars: The various creature encounters in the movies are generally well-done uses of this trope. We didn't really need to see Luke pulled under garbage by a dianoga in A New Hope, or the Millennium Falcon almost get swallowed by a space slug in The Empire Strikes Back, or the sea monster sequence in The Phantom Menace, and most of these encounters didn't really advance the plot and were never mentioned again afterwards, but adventures like these helped establish that there's a big galaxy out there beyond what happens in the main story. The casino subplot from The Last Jedi is often seen as a poor example of this as it goes on for quite some time, features some jarringly bad CGI animals, and could have easily been written out of the script completely.
  • The film Ator l'invincibile 2 ("Ator the Invincible") (1984), aka The Blade Master, contains a sequence right in the middle where the heroes find themselves in a cave and have to escape from the tribe of cannibals glimpsed in the opening scene. Other than that, the cannibals don't appear at all and have nothing to do with the story. Oddly enough, the USA Film Ventures International release (Cave Dwellers) was titled after the Wacky Wayside Tribe.
  • The Fireys from Labyrinth. (In earlier script drafts, they were given a little more to do by agreeing to help Sarah find the castle, but it turned out they didn't know what that was...)
  • The beatniks from the John Waters version of Hairspray are arguably a two-person example. Their one scene is fairly brief and not really any more eccentric than the rest of the movie, but they don't tie into the plot and seem to just be there to briefly satirize a different side of the The '60s than the rest of the film.
  • The Dracula sub-plot in House of Frankenstein. On their way to find Frankenstein's records on reanimating corpses, Dr. Niemann and Daniel happen to stumble upon a traveling road show that has Dracula's skeleton as an exhibit. Niemann removes the stake from Dracula's bones, reviving him, and he persuades Dracula to kill this one guy who had done Niemann wrong. Dracula does this, and meances the victim's family for a while, before getting caught in the sunlight and dying again. Niemann and Daniel continue on their way, and absolutely nothing that happened while Dracula was around is ever referenced again.
  • About halfway through John Ford's Western Cheyenne Autumn (1964), there's a 15 minute comedy sequence set in Dodge City, featuring Jimmy Stewart as Wyatt Earp. This segment shows Earp gambling and shooting a violent cowboy, while townspeople panic about the approaching Cheyenne. Obviously meant as comic relief, it's long, self-contained, features none of the main characters and feels jarringly out of place in such a downbeat, serious movie. Unsurprisingly, some theatrical screenings and television airings removed the entire scene.
  • In the extended cut of Stripes, John and Russell try to desert during Basic, and somehow end up parachuting into somewhere in South America, before running into a group of rebels, accidentally dumping a bunch of LSD into their stew, almost getting killed, and sneaking off before getting put back on the plane and sent back to Basic.
  • The African boys in Dinosaur Island (2014). Where did they come from? What role do they have in the overall plot? They seem to exist only to capture our heroes for a short while and laugh at their lack of knowledge of Man Eating Plants.
  • Near the end of Damnation Alley, the protagonists stop at a gas station to see if there is gas to syphon for their Awesome Personnel Carrier, and encounter a bunch of irradiated hillbillies that wanted to kill them and rape the sole woman of the group (and are taken out with a well-aimed rock, a few headshots and the Land Master's rocket launcher). They are the only human antagonists that appear on the entire film.
  • In Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone the titular adventures are actually a series of conflicts with these before finally confronting the film's villain at his lair. This includes zombie-like Pig Men, a tribe of amphibious Amazons, and Molotov cocktail-wielding Creepy Children.
  • Near the end of The Gumball Rally, a biker gang notices Angie (the Wet Blanket Girlfriend of Jose, one of the racers) walking around a gas station across the street in her flag bikini top and decides to ask if she wants a sweet time. The harassment and subsequent escalation when she says "no" makes the film switch to biker exploitation for five minutes.

  • Hothouse: The characters meet multiple unusual peoples and beings over their journey, such as the Herders, the Fishers, the siren in the Black Mouth and the sharp-furs, most of which serve little purpose beyond spicing up the diversity of Earth's future life and providing dangers along the story's route.
  • Max & the Midknights: The Tower of Time: In the town of Peasoup, while Max is hiding while her friends look around for a piece of fruit to call Mumblin' with, Max finds herself kidnapped by pirates who intend to make her their cabin boy (they thought that she was a boy at the time).
  • Redwall: The series is full of these. In Martin The Warrior, the verse roadmap has nothing but Wacky Wayside Tribes, like the pygmy shrews. One particular example, a band of cannibalistic tree-dwelling rats called the Painted Ones, actually shows up as a regular wayside tribe throughout the series, appearing all over the books' timeline to temporarily inconvenience the heroes as they go about their quest. In Martin the Warrior some of the tribes do return as Chekhov's Army (literally) by the end, but they are mostly used to make Martin's army bigger and the named characters from these tribes play no significant part other than from just being there.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Tom Bombadil. One of the reasons why the LOTR movies are often considered Adaptation Distillation is because the entire segment involving him was left out. Tolkien managed to do this better than most because Bombadil returned to help Frodo a few chapters later, he was referred to and had his existence acknowledged at the council, and his gift of Barrow-blades proved fruitful against the Witch-king in the third book.
    • Ghan-buri-Ghan and the Woses, who do provide a way to get the Rohirrim to Minas Tirith without having to plow through an army of orcs en route — but the whole sequence is similar to the Bombadil section in seemingly coming out of nowhere but being referenced later in the story (emissaries from Gondor go to Ghan-buri-Ghan's forest and proclaim that it shall belong to him and his people forever, in gratitude for their help).
  • The Hobbit: The trolls, Beorn, and the spiders and elves as well. One might argue that most of the journey in The Hobbit consists of random encounters with exotic peoples and characters; of them, only Elrond and Gollum have a notable influence on the plot.
    • Also Deconstructed, as, while the Elvenking is not central to what is the main plot (the quest to recover Erebor and slay the dragon Smaug), much of the last quarter of the book is spent dealing with the fact that their encounter earlier in the story caused him to follow them to Erebor and try to claim the mountain and its treasure for himself, and having previously treated him like a disposable encounter was arguably a grievous error in judgment, whereas treating him with respect and civility might have saved hundreds of lives including those of three of the main characters.
  • In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, like in The Hobbit, most of the journey is a series of random encounters. But exploring the distant lands is, in fact, the very goal of Caspian's expedition. The movie version, however, half-heartedly tries to subvert this trope by adding a connecting plot to the encounters.
  • The Chronicles of Amber: A rather unfortunate example in The Courts of Chaos, the fifth novel. Corwin is on a quest to deliver a McGuffin while being hounded by his evil brother. However he can't use his magic deck to simply teleport, so he has to reach the place by horse. Despite the book being less than 150 pages, over a half of them involve Corwin being sidetracked by random and irrelevant adventures; including him meeting a talking raven, finding the tree Yggdrasil, having a picnic with a seductive lady and getting his horse stolen by Leprechauns. This also counts as a case of Trapped by Mountain Lions as the book does have a lengthy plot, only Corwin misses most of it.
  • Discworld:
    • The first half of Witches Abroad. Before the coven gets to the borders of Genua, we have half a book of amusing culture clashes, including some very good (but strictly speaking unnecessary) parodies of Hammer Horror, The Lord of the Rings, and The Wizard of Oz. Collectively, they introduce the reader to the Discworld's Law of Narrative Causality and its manipulation by the book's antagonist, a major plot point.
    • The very first book, The Colour of Magic, had the section with the tree and the entire "The Lure of the Wyrms" chapter, but then there was no actual plot (as Pratchett freely admits).
    • In book three, Equal Rites, there's Esk's time with the incurably truthful Zoon tribe.
    • The Last Continent is a bit of a stylistic throwback to the earlier books, and contains a lot of Rincewind stumbling into various parodies of Australian culture before stumbling back out. Most of these (winning a sheep-shearing contest, inventing Vegemite, encountering spoofs of Mad Max and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) have no real bearing on the plot, but they collectively contribute to Rincewind becoming a sort of Ecksian folk hero.
  • The first few Spellsinger novels were episodic, but still possessed a plot. Later ones ... not so much. Most obvious in the sixth, which features so many escapes from cannibal tribes that even one of the characters complains about the monotony.
  • Congo (that is, the original novel by Michael Crichton) has this right in the end. After the main characters have escaped the killer gorillas. After the Lost City has been destroyed. After they've accepted that the good gorilla will return to live in the jungle. THEN!! this cannibal tribe appears from nowhere after not being a problem through the entire book and attacks them, forcing the good guys to refuge in a crashed airplane and use all the weapons they can find. Not surprising it was left out in The Film of the Book.
  • Piers Anthony's Xanth series of books tend to be made up of almost nothing BUT these. It is a common aspect of the books for the main characters, while traveling long distances towards their main goal, to be stopped every couple of pages by some pointless, punnish characters. Sometimes these characters have a small problem, which the main characters tend to solve within one paragraph. Other times, the wayside characters serve no purpose other than introducing themselves and explaining their unique magic ability (many of which are based on readers' mail-in suggestions).
    • Condensed into the "comic strips", narrow strips of lands with an abnormally high concentration of puns. It has virtually become a once-per-book event for the characters to pass through one.
  • The Plains of Passage, fourth book in Jean M Auel's Earth's Children series, features a whole lot of this is made entirely of this.
  • In Consider Phlebas, the encounter with the nightmarish Eaters (more cannibals) is really just a danger for the protagonist to fight through, contributing only marginally to character development and not at all to the overall plot.
  • In the Strontium Dog "Max Bubba" storyline, Johnny and his Vikings are at one point waylaid by a group of man-eating trolls who kill a few redshirts, but are never mentioned after escaping.
  • Quidditch throughout the Harry Potter series. More so as time goes on, which may explain its diminishing frequency. It's telling that the actual games being played are among the first things the later movie adaptations ditched.
    • The classes as well. In the first four or so books, much attention is paid to what Harry and his friends are doing or studying in each class. As time passed, focus was shifted to only classes and teachers relevant to the overall plot.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Daenerys Targaryen's POV in general feels like one big case of this. Her utmost goal has always been claiming her right as heir to the Iron Throne, but since she starts off as a penniless, overthrown royal, she has to work her way to the top, first by marrying into a nomadic horde so she can gain an armed force, then making her ownership of her three dragons known, conquering and liberating three slave cities, and currently reigning as queen to one of them to gain experience in politicking. All of these events could have been the main plot, if not for the fact that the series' Myth Arc is centered on a whole different continent, putting them in the backdrop. As a result, Daenerys' story is largely unimportant in the big picture, except to fill in the blanks before her inevitable journey to Westeros.
    • Brienne's ongoing, fruitless quest to find the girls she was charged to defend, which spans three books and possibly more.
  • The Three Musketeers grinds suddenly to a halt in order to detail the Lady De Winter's fictional retelling of her life story, which she tells her jailor as a ploy to enlist his help in her escape. If he lived even slightly longer, this might have added something to the plot, but as it stands, it can be removed in its entirety without seriously impacting the story.
  • The Land of Oz stories are entirely comprised of these sorts of adventures, with a good portion of the stories featuring traveling characters "discovering" new, slightly dangerous parts of Oz and having to navigate around the wild animals / monsters / cannibals / etc, and a lot of the rest having the same on the way to Oz as well.
    • This goes back to the first book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the Dainty China Country. A city surrounded by a wall that only exists to lengthen the journey from Point A to Point B. The instant they leave the city it's never spoken of again.
  • In Tales of the Magic Land the first book (the one that resembles the Oz series most) has pretty many wayside storms, rivers, tribes, and random standalone characters. However, some of them (like Ramina the Mouse Queen and the Leaper tribe) later become major Chekhov's Gunmen.
  • Don Quixote: The last chapters of the First Part are dedicated to solving a Romantic Plot Tumor, reading a Novel Within A Novel named The Ill-Advised Curiosity and to hearing the tale of the Captive Captain, leaving Don Quixote as a mere spectator in his own book. In the Second Part Cervantes makes an Author's Saving Throw when Don Quixote opines:
  • Count and Countess is a serious and grim story, but Vlad Tepes' background as a child soldier is occasionally interspersed with anecdotes of two Turkish bandits who initiate a furious rivalry with Vlad and Istvan Bathory. It's played completely for comedic effect and probably to give the reader a breather from all the beatings, torture, and mercy killings Vlad is forced to experience.
  • In the second book of the second Warrior Cats arc, the protagonists are heading home after a long journey, but get abducted by the Tribe of Rushing Water who want them to fight a mountain lion as per a prophecy.
    • Later subverted in the next two arcs, in which the Tribe and their relationship with the Clans turns out to be very important to the story and backstory.
  • Older Than Feudalism: The bulk of The Odyssey is Odysseus and his men encountering Wacky Wayside Tribes during their journey home. The putative main plot — Odysseus getting back home — is firmly in the backseat to his encounters with one strange, exotic threat after another, although some examples do impact the rest of the story — his blinding of Polyphemus and resulting wrath of Poseidon are what caused Odysseus to spend so much time wandering lost to begin with, while Circe gave him instructions to reach the land of the dead to find a way back home, and his interactions with her have repercussions in the Odyssey's lost sequel, the Telegony, which centered around Circe and Odysseus' son.
  • The plot of the Polish children's series Koziołek Matołek mostly consists of the protagonist finding himself forced into one very brief adventure after another, sometimes halfway across the globe.
  • The Power of Five: Several of the villains who impede the collective progress of the Five in Oblivion aren't even working for the Old Ones; they're just taking advantage of the chaos they cause. Examples include the Sheik who tries to marry Scarlett, the slave-drivers who capture Matt and Lohan, and the priest who tries to kill Pedro.
  • The Dark Ones in Murderess. Their primary function in the book is to create a firm alliance between Lu and Hallwad and Aucasis.
  • The Magic: The Gathering novel Mercadian Masques is an unfortunate example of this, as it takes up nearly the entire book. After escaping Rath, while trying to get to their homeworld Dominaria, the Weatherlight crashes on Mercadia, where the crew gets swept up in the battle between the Cho-Arrim rebels and the Mercadian overlords. Toward the end of the book, connections between Mercadia and Rath/Phyrexia are revealed. Even that isn't as significant as it sounds, as Volrath taunts the heroes by revealing that the Phyrexian warfleet they just destroyed is just a tiny fraction of the invading army.
  • The Keepers in Last Sacrifice. They are a separatist group of Moroi who still intermingle and mate with humans, producing new generations of dhampirs. They have their own political system, where everything is decided by combat skills. Rose, Dimitri, and Sydney Sage briefly find refuge with the Keepers of West Virginia. Allows for some chapters of culture shock, while the tribe does not figure in the main plotlines. They mostly add some flavor of exoticism.
  • In Quest for Fire, the protagonists encounter a tribe of giant apes the local people call "Blue-haired men". They don't contribute much to the plot but they do make the prehistoric world more interesting.
  • The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant has a fairly long section set in the desert city Brathairealm. While the Sandgorgons do return later, most of the action feels very disconnected from the rest of the story.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen:
  • The Doctor Dolittle books tend to have a lot of these. For instance, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle has the entire subplot with Luke the Hermit and Dr. Dolittle saving him from a false accusation. It takes several chapters, but has no bearing whatsoever on the later story (apart from Luke making a brief appearance later on.)
  • Animorphs: The Helmacrons. Twice. They show up out of nowhere. They're originally not dangerous enough to threaten the main characters — then they shrink everyone and suddenly what was supposed to be five minutes of ridiculousness becomes (in two separate books) an entire plot line just to get rid of them.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: Your Tour is certain to include a great deal of people, tribes and incidents that will have little or nothing to do with the theoretical main plot of overthrowing the Dark Lord. Jones goes into great detail on each kind of Tribe you’re likely to come across.

    Live-Action TV 
  • "Black Market" episode of Battlestar Galactica (aka "Film Noir Apollo") where we are introduced to the seamy underbelly of crime in the fleet. This not only introduces a prostitute with a kid that Apollo has apparently been seeing for a while (with no previous mention) but also a may-or-may-not-have-been-pregnant girlfriend back on Caprica (with no previous mention). The episode was considered a failure by everyone and most of the plot points were never spoken of again.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Keys of Marinus" is entirely made of this — the characters have to collect Plot Coupons from various locations on the planet, each of which has a different culture and threat. There's a Lotus-Eater Machine world that only Barbara can see through, a murder investigation world where the Doctor is a lawyer and has to use The Perry Mason Method to save Ian after he picked up the knife, an ice world where they have to fight ancient guardians and so on.
    • Another Terry Nation serial, "The Chase", is like this — the Doctor is being followed by Daleks who have constructed their own TARDIS, and occasionally make pit-stops. When the Daleks first catch up to them on a desert planet, the setting and plot fit, but part 3 in particular is just two comedy setpieces (tourists on top of the Empire State Building, and people on the Marie Celeste) stuck together, neither of which change anything about the Doctor's predicament — we just see the TARDIS crew first poke their heads out, chat to people and leave, followed by the Daleks showing up.
    • The serial "The Mind Robber" starts with a Bottle Episode where the TARDIS materializes in a white void containing aggressive robots. As soon as the characters escape, these robots have no bearing on the plot of the rest of the serial.
    • The otherwise brilliant "Genesis of the Daleks" has a laughable sequence where the Doctor and Harry battle a genetically engineered land clam that grabbed Harry's leg when he stepped on it. It comes out of nowhere, has no bearing on the gritty and tense plot about warfare and mad scientists, doesn't make a lot of sense and was clearly tossed in to stretch the episode out another couple of minutes.
    • "The Christmas Invasion": The Evil Robot Santas, aka "pilot fish", are, after attacking Rose, Mickey and Jackie, never seen again in the episode after the Doctor destroys their Christmas Tree of Doom and scares them off. In their next appearance, on the other hand, their role was much more integral to the plot.
  • "Stranger in a Strange Land", a.k.a. the Jack's Tattoos episode of Lost. Though most episodes are relevant to the overall plot of the series, this one can be skipped entirely without really missing anything. It's also almost universally considered to be the worst episode of the series. In fact, the only character introduced in this episode was later confirmed by Word of God to have died off screen... in an explosion that happened on screen... somehow.
  • "Lamia" of Merlin, the only filler episode of the otherwise tightly-plotted series 4, in which the knights investigate a strange illness in an outlying village, get brainwashed by the titular Lamia, and are lured back to her keep where she plans to pick them off one by one. Merlin and Guinevere manage to keep them alive until Arthur shows up and defeats the Eldritch Abomination by stabbing it in the back. It adds nothing to the Story Arc or Character Development and is generally considered the worst episode of the entire show.
  • The final Quatermass serial has the section with the old people living in the scrapyard, which was specifically written so that it could be removed for a condensed feature-film version.

  • Many examples of LEGO's BIONICLE franchise, since the basics of its story were usually prepared in advance, but the book and comic quota demanded the addition of filler chapters.
    • The original Mata Nui Online Game that focused on the side characters was planned as one, to the point that LEGO didn't even acknowledge its events as canon for years. But the cancellation of a high profile PC game (for which MNOG was meant as a mere addition) forced its developers to tie up both the side and main plots at once, and due to MNOG's massive popularity with fans, it has become one of the franchise's main pillars of storytelling. The first novel nevertheless ignored it altogether, as it was written back when the game's canon status was still dubious.
    • Since the comics couldn't cover story material from the movies, filler stories were published instead when the movies came out, featuring characters battling random monsters like the Rahkshi Kaita, the Tahtorak and even infected villagers.
    • The book Voyage of Fear, where the Toa Metru come across the self-banished scientist Mavrah and his menagerie of beasts and obsolete enforcer robots. Mavrah wasn't referred to again until the story's cancellation 7 years later.
    • The book Web of the Visorak, featuring scene after scene of one-shot monsters and the Toa fleeing from a squad of malfunctioning Vahki robots while the Visorak stalk them in secret. In the Animated Adaptation, the whole book apart from the very beginning and the very end, and all foes other than the Visorak, were glossed over.
    • The couple page long Zyglak encounter from the 2007 comics, who are dealt with off-screen. There would have been an entire cancelled book about them too.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • In the big picture of Dino Attack RPG, villains such as Anti-Kotua and Dino Aliens play little part in the overall story and just served as momentary threats.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A lot are spread across the solar system in Rocket Age. Some good examples include the Northern Mountain Women of Venus, whose ranks include the storm riders, and the Rheans, Venusians who managed to get a Erisian space ship working and land on Saturn's moon Rhea. Many of these are self contained and might appear once in a season and never be seen or heard from again.

  • Westeros: An American Musical: The play's last song ends with Danaerys pointing out that the current status quo would be a good time for her to try claiming the Westerosi throne, but that before doing that, she needs to conquer three major cities on her continent of exile, as she did in the original story.

    Video Games 
  • In Breath of Fire III, the events in Rhapala have no real relationship to the greater plot. You have to train Beyd to wreck an Arranged Marriage in the Guild, fix a broken lighthouse, and solve the issues with the faeries who were keeping the lighthouse from being fixed, before you get access to Mt. Zublo to go to the Urkan Region where the plot picks back up. The Guild plays a minor role in the Adult arc, and the faeries later become a major minigame and sidequest, but ultimately it's a Filler Arc that extends the game a bit.
  • In Fallout 3, almost every non-main quest is this, often featuring a bizarre situation or antagonist but having little lasting relevance.
    • Within the main story, the simulation where your father is trapped makes barely enough sense to not be a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment, but its length and lack of lasting impact definitely qualify as this trope.
    • And Little Lamplight, which features an actual "wacky" tribe of wasteland kids who waylay you for some time but are never mentioned again. Fortunately, they can be bypassed with a high Speech skill.
  • In the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Dead Money, we have the Ghost People. While there is an explanation as to why they are there and they most certainly aren't wacky, they don't serve any plot importance and are mainly there to give the player something to fight.
  • Commonplace in the Grandia series. Though most villages are benign, there are some seriously weird examples in the first game, such as Laine where the horned giantesses do all the work while mature males turn into bovines, and Gumbo, where every year, the villagers sacrifice two lovers to the volcano and, because of this, nobody in the village becomes a couple in fear of being sacrificed. When Justin and Feena arrive in Gumbo the village chief mistakes them for a couple and rolls out the red carpet for them.
  • The PC version of Grand Theft Auto 2 features a location called Mad Island, which is inhabited by an unidentified gang that is constantly hostile and aggressive towards the player's character, regardless of the amount of Respect they have with the other gangs.
  • Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception has a section where Nathan Drake is kidnapped and held hostage in a ship graveyard, after which he battles his way to a derelict cruise liner where his captor is headquartered. At no point is this section relevant to anything else that happens in the game, and — despite the ridiculous hardship Nate endures during it — the plot continues as if it never happened when he returns to Yemen.
  • In BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, the surreal “Tower of Plot” dungeon in Chapter 6 is practically a gauntlet of these. Each floor has a new one, like a pair of Forever Warring tribes made up of sentient crabs and turnips, and a village of cultist farmers who turn into skeletons and chase you when night falls. Once you reach the top of the tower, the whole thing turns out to have been a dream.
  • The tribes of Nanzhong and the mystic Zuo Ci usually play this role in Dynasty Warriors. The former comes up as an unruly mob for Shu to pacify and recruit in short order, and the latter comes right out of nowhere to be a nuisance to Wei.
  • Last Rites mostly revolves around you and your commando team investigating a zombie infestation which wiped out an entire city, but halfway through you receive reports that a rival mercenary gang had occupied part of the district as their own. Cue a stage where you're shooting human enemies left and right.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Chapter 3 ends with the party being told to go to Indol to meet with Praetor Amalthus, the only living person who's been to the World Tree they're seeking. Literally right as they're about to board a ship and set out, Roc's Core Crystal is stolen, sending the party back to Gormott to deal with a group of orphaned children and their plot to use the crystal to get revenge on the bandits who destroyed their home. The whole sequence serves no purpose in the story other than awakening Roc's crystal (and he immediately proceeds to be Demoted to Extra) and the plot continues with no mention of it afterwards.
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: The story comes to a screeching halt when the hero Cal Kestis is abducted and imprisonned by a robot mercenary. You spend a level escaping a Hellhole Prison before a sudden fight in an arena. None of that is ever brought up again once you leave the place.

  • 8-Bit Theater had four of these, most of which had nothing to do with the source material. Doesn't stop them from being pretty darn funny, though:
    • First there's a journey to the arctic (for a reason revealed after it happened) which only served to introduce a group of doom cultists which returned later. Though this was at least based on the Ice Cave quest for the floater/levistone in the original Final Fantasy.
    • Then the Light Warriors take over a nameless town through force after getting stuck on the Air Orb quest.
    • Later, a particularly bizarre one in the last dungeon: Black Mage decides to leave the Light Warriors and ends up the leader of the Dark Warriors while Drizz'l joins the Light Warriors. When the two teams confront each other the Other Warriors show up, and the sheer lack of space leads the following 36 strips to be about reorganizing the three parties.
    • And finally, one occurred during the final battle. Chaos gave the Light Warriors 24 hours to level up in order to stand a chance. They spent it kidnapping babies, murdering and beating people up, getting beat up, robbing the true Light Warriors of their ultra weapons which 3/4 of the protagonists cannot use, discussing bubble gum, buying snow cones stubes, speeding up time, selling said ultra weapons, and then something about a porpoise disguised as a shark using the remainder of those. None of this ended up being relevant for the end boss's eventual defeat. They weren't even the ones who defeated Chaos.
  • Girl Genius: Used to great effect with Master Payne's Circus of Adventure, a group mostly comprised of lesser sparks and other runaways hiding from the Baron and other threats in plain sight. The circus establishes the post-apocalyptic world the Other left behind and works Zeetha, Dimo, Oggie and Maxim into the main cast for the rest of the story.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has a few episodes featuring Wacky Wayside Tribes — although in most cases, these episodes still provide some insight as to the Avatar universe and to the show's characters.
    • "The Great Divide" features a literal Wacky Wayside Tribe — or rather, two of them locked in a never-ending Space Cold War. Out of all the show's Wacky Wayside Tribe episodes, this one provides the least insight as to the characters and the world — the only characterization it establishes is Aang's ability to resolve conflicts. Unlike a great deal of the seemingly unrelated events in the first season, it never gets brought up again... except in "The Ember Island Players", during a Show Within a Show recapping the series to that point. The actors point out the Great Divide ... and then decide to keep flying over it.
    • "The Fortuneteller" has a Wacky Wayside Village where everyone unquestioningly accepts the fortuneteller's verdicts on what's going to happen. This becomes problematic when the fortuneteller predicts that the nearby volcano isn't going to destroy the village. The heroes notice that the volcano is about to erupt, but the villagers refuse to accept it because they believe their fortuneteller can't ever be wrong. After a lot of convincing, the villagers work together with the heroes to save the village from the eruption ... ironically making the fortuneteller's prediction ("The village will not be destroyed by the volcano this year") technically correct.
    • "The Cave of Two Lovers" has a Wacky Wayside Tribe of singing New Age Retro Hippies (including one named Chong after famous Real Life hippie Tommy Chong). The heroes travel with them through a cave, get lost, and use The Power of Love (in the case of Aang and Katara) and guidance from giant badgermoles (in the case of Sokka and the hippies) to find their way out.
    • "Avatar Day" has the heroes visiting a really wacky village that hates the Avatar because Avatar Kyoshi killed their leader Chin the Great several hundred years ago. This is called out in universe as the worst town they have ever been to.
    • "Zuko Alone" features a rare example of a Wacky Wayside Village without any humor.
    • "Tales of Ba Sing Se" has a trip to the salon, the construction of a new zoo, a rap haiku battle, a pair of shady poachers, and a street-performing sequence involving dancing animals. All of these probably qualify as Wacky Wayside Tribes.
    • "The Headband" is about a Wacky Wayside Village where the teachers have forbidden the students from dancing.
    • "The Painted Lady" has a Wacky Wayside Village where the heroes clean up the river to save the local fishing trade.
    • "The Ember Island Players", the last episode before the Grand Finale, has the main characters visiting a Wacky Wayside Theater and seeing the aforementioned Show Within a Show detailing their adventures.
  • DuckTales (1987): The second part of the "Time Is Money" serial, "The Duck Who Would Be King". On their way back to the future from One Million BC, Scrooge and company accidentally crash-land in the ancient oriental kingdom of Toupee and become involved in its internal politics. While "The Duck Who Would Be King" is considered an entertaining episode in its own right, it has next to no impact on the rest of the five-parter.
  • DuckTales (2017): In the middle of two larger story arcs (about Glomgold's wager with Scrooge and Della's escape from the moon), "Treasure of the Found Lamp!" is slapstick comic relief introducing the new badass version of Dijon (now Djinn) from DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. Djinn's only later appearance so far is a brief cameo, but the episode serves to reintroduce characters who'll be important later in the season or have changed significantly from their 1987 counterparts.
  • Futurama: In Bender's Game, the "stuck in a fantasy RPG" plot that all of the trailers, advertisements, and box art depict turns out to be a side-story to the main plot (uniting the two crystals to render all dark matter inert as fuel) that suddenly sprung up from the B-plot right before the climax, and all of one event affects the last ten minutes of the movie (though it does admittedly continue the other B-plot about Leela). It takes up approximately 32 of the film's 88 minute length.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "Nomad Droids" follows 3PO and R2 running into a series of exotic planets and peculiar societies and dangers, such as a tribe of lilliputians, a group of primitive warriors being led by robots posing as a god, and a band of pirates.